When your problem is a little too fanged and violent to fall into the Ghostbusters' jurisdiction, and Will and Tommy Lee aren't answering their phones, just give Ed Ryzhov's Xenosquad a call. The power-suited heroes of this turn-based sci-fi strategy game will be happy to attend to all your KILL IT WITH FIRE needs. The game has no real story to speak of apart from "here you are" and "kill that thing", but you can probably fill in the blanks yourself. You take command of a group of three soldiers sent into areas that could be charitably called "grody" and are teeming with hostile alien life.
The game's handy tutorial level will walk you through the finer points of shooting aliens in the face while remaining undevoured, but for the most part, gameplay is about what you'd expect from a turn-based strategy title. You'll order your men around the level individually by clicking on them and issuing orders; green squares are places you can move to, and small icons that pop up over nearby items means you can interact with something. Ammo boxes and other goodies are littered throughout the area to help you, but you don't play a game called "Xenosquad" without expecting to run into a few interstellar terrors, and so you'll find aliens aplenty that need to be dealt with before you can proceed. Since your squad and the enemy take it in turns to move and act, you'll want to carefully consider where you tell your soldiers to move, as well as make use of their various special abilities.
Between stages you'll get the chance to tweak and upgrade your squad by allocating any skill points they earn into various statistics, as well as purchasing new weapons with the go-to universal currency of science-fiction... credits. While the first two stages are relatively easy, as you progress you'll find that enemies get smarter as well as stronger, so don't be shy about putting some thought into your soldiers. It may save them from winding up as gooey chunks one day.
Analysis: If it helps, think of Xenosquad as a gorier, less kupo-po Final Fantasy Tactics in terms of gameplay, stripped of the story. If you're more narrative-driven like myself, the lack of a compelling tale to push you along might be a big negative, but this game's focus is certainly planted firmly on the gameplay itself, so that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Xenosquad is definitely not what you would call fast-paced, but chances are if you're a fan of the genre, you wouldn't like it if it was. The game encourages careful, thoughtful troop direction, and like any good strategy title it allows for just enough options and tactics to provide a bit of depth and challenge without making you feel like you need to keep a forty-pound manual on hand for reference. It's just a shame you can't replay old missions to grind up levels and cash when you're having trouble passing the latest stage.
Despite being really, really tiny, Xenosquad looks great, and if you prefer the slow, patience approach to games, you'll probably think it's pretty great in general too. Those of us who feel there is never enough gun might wish for more equipment to purchase, but the limited availability cuts down on fiddliness rather than options, so you'll always have sufficient firepower for what lies ahead even if that firepower isn't particularly flashy. Xenosquad is a solid little strategy game with a great presentation that can provide a decent challenge for genre fans without being wholly unfriendly to newcomers. Besides, with the invention of the Taco Bell Dorito Shell, it's only a matter of time before the aliens see us as a threat to the rest of the galaxy, so you might as well get them before they can get us.